LIVE REVIEW: The Wendy James Band at Islington Academy, London

LIVE REVIEW: The Wendy James Band at Islington Academy, London

For many of Wendy James' fans who followed her since her Transvision Vamp days back in the 1980s and early 1990s, 2021 will likely fill them with emotion as this year marks the 30th anniversary of that bands third and final LP Little Magnets Versus the Bubble of Babble. Transvision Vamp also split up in 1991. Furthermore, James' tour, which had been postponed three times previously, had finally come around.

Whilst the band couldn't agree if it were the 27th or 28th gig they had completed on this tour; they could agree that they had one more date left and their previous gig was in Brighton (where Wendy moved to when she was 16 and met Nick Christian Sayer which led to the eventual formation of Transvision Vamp) and this gig, to a packed 800 capacity crowd was the penultimate of their current tour.

The crowd knew Wendy James and her band were about to enter the stage as a film screen appeared with a silent film in black and white with a touch of light purple with young people driving around and exiting cars. As the band entered the stage, the film kept rolling amidst bland lighting (which James mentioned). Wendy, and her five-piece ensemble, opened the set with "You're So Great", taken from her 2016 LP The Price of the Ticket. This rock galvaniser with a delightful melody saw an enthusiastic Wendy please the crowd who had been waiting for over a year to see her live.

The other song James played from this LP was "You're A Dirtbomb, Lester". Wendy proved herself a notable storyteller and historian as she explained about several songs, including "You're A Dirtbomb, Lester", about an American Music journalist called "Lester Mann" who she summed up as being a "Filth Burger" as well as a "Dirtbomb" of course.

James also reminisced about how she stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York when they toured the states, which was the place where all the "Dirty British rock bands stayed". Despite having a rock outfit of guitarists and bassists with one member doubling up on keys, the diversity of Wendy's back catalogue was impressive.

"You're A Good Man Sister", taken from her 2007 Racine 2 LP, closely resonated with Bowie's "The Jean Genie" whilst "Here Comes the Beautiful One" taken from her more recent LP release Queen High Straight fused the best of Adam Ant's "Prince Charming" amidst a heavy rock backdrop.

Also played from James' most recent LP was "The Impression of Normalcy", which wowed the Islington through adrenaline-fuelled speed punk. Several of her songs evoked memories of The Runaways. From speed punk, "Bad Valentine" off Transvision Vamp's 1989 number one LP, Velveteen. It was impressive  1950's pop amidst a heavy bass sound. Whilst "Little Melvin" from Queen High Straight was melodically Motown and rocked with a vibrant organ.

Wendy James spoke affectionately about how Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) helped introduce her to her current band members, how the TV series The Wire inspired "Little Melvin". James also spoke highly of Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), who in his 2021 book "The Listening Party" Transvision Vamp's Velveteen as one of the top 100 albums listed.

At that point, Wendy announced that 2022 would bring about a tour where Velveteen would be played in full. From a delighted but stoic crowd, booming ecstatic cheers and louder singing could be heard. Leaving her best known hit to last (the first song on Velveteen), "Baby I Don't Care" saw the crowd sing and vibrate the Islington Academy as if it was the last gig on earth.

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